What happens when we don’t look after ourselves

I wrote a post a while back about work and life falling out of balance, about how the scales had tipped sharply in the favour of work and time for myself was almost non-existant. I also wrote about addressing the problem next week.

But guess what? I didn’t. Surprise, surprise. Not only was I working incredibly long hours, but also under very stressful conditions. I will leave the detail on exactly how disturbing it can be to have a colleague constantly attempting to undermine you to another day as the topic deserves an article all of its own, but suffice it to say my poor little body has been going through quite a bit lately.

So, body under 6 months of continuous stress and overwork. What does it decide to do? What any self respecting body that isn’t being listened to or given enough R&R would do. Go on strike! I was just 3 days short of the Christmas holidays, when I had promised to give my body and my mind the break they deserve. But they couldn’t wait any longer. I get it. They were tired and they were fed-up. And they just wanted out for a while.

It all hit very suddenly. One minute, everything was fine. But a heated, frustrated exchange with a colleague and many frazzled nerves later, and it didn’t take long for my body to be telling me “OK, I’ve had enough of fighting you on this. You’re not going to ease up on me, I’m calling time out.” An hour later, I started coughing.

And so I’ve spent the last 3 days completely out of action. Unable to leave the house. Unable to even get off the couch for the most part. The flu and bronchitis all in one… fever, aching muscles and organs, sore eyes, sneezing, coughing, a nose red raw from constant blowing and the feeling of slowly drowning in all the gunk in my lungs. Not a pretty picture.

I’m lucky my body’s given me a relatively friendly warning this time. Last time I overdid things, I kept up an unsustainable pace of life for about 6 years. So when my body finally pulled the plug, it needed several months of time out before letting me get back on with things. I swore to myself that I had learnt the lesson. But sometimes we forget important things all too easily.

And so I’m sharing this story with you because this little period of illness is, for me, an extremely important reminder that we must always remember to look after ourselves… To take time out to do things we enjoy, and sometimes to just do nothing at all. To find ways to reduce our exposure to stressful situations, either by removing ourselves from certain interactions or by finding another way to view them. And to be in tune with our bodies and listen to what they are trying to tell us, BEFORE they get so exhausted that they need to shut up shop for a while.

An enforced period of down-time is far less convenient than making healthy choices about taking breaks during the course of our everyday. Instead of being out enjoying celebrations with friends tonight for the start of the Christmas holidays, I’m curled up on the lounge under a blanket with a cup of tea. I can remember more fun Friday nights.

Well-timed mental and physical health breaks can make a big difference to our long-term performance. Rather than being the “waste of time” that they may seem to some chronic doers, they actually recharge our batteries and allow us to keep going for longer. I’m not incredibly gifted at the New Year’s Resolution thing, but if there is one change that I am truly committed to making, it is to plan the year ahead in a way that is friendlier and more caring of my body and mind. After all, it’s best to look after them now, as I hope they’ve still got a lot of years in them yet!

Friday night in

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